Feature Article - July 2013
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Jumping Off the Deep End

Daring Trends in Aquatic Facility Design

By Kelli Anderson

Master Plans

What is making a huge difference, however, in today's pool designs, is the greater emphasis on the future aquatic space and its possibilities.

Competitive pools are not the only ones looking to change their depths these days. More recreational pools are changing them not because they have to, but because they want to. For the aquatic facility in Christiansburg, hindsight is 20/20. "You want to make sure you have something for everyone, like a deeper leisure pool. I would like to have seen that—sometimes we miss the teenagers," Caldwell said about one of their design decisions. "We took out the diving boards and so we miss those kids." While they do have an amazing Olympic-sized competitive pool with fast water thanks to 7-foot depths on one end and 17-foot depths on the other, the leisure side of their facility is shallow and, while very successful, is geared to younger users.

What is making a huge difference, however, in today's pool designs, is the greater emphasis on the future aquatic space and its possibilities. "There is a lot more focus on the overall design of a facility and the way people flow through the activities," McElyba said. "A lot used to just add on a pool but now when we design, we're in more of a master-plan state of mind."

One example of that is for indoor facilities to think about transition spaces transitioning from dry to wet. "We have to think about how wet and dry areas interact and how patrons experience it," McElyba explained. "There are two different things. One is atmosphere that is making air handling on the technical side of things. But the air temperature needs to be comfortable for getting out of the water so you have to consider what is the most efficient at handling moisture issues as well as handing chloramines that form in the air. You have to consider a lot of factors so that the environment is safe and pleasant in handling air quality moving from a dry environment to wet."

Another consideration for designers these days is the ease of use of all the technology that in former days a typical lifeguard was expected to manage. But not anymore.

With an eye toward efficiency, Counsilman-Hunsaker has helped to create a technological design to help simplify what can be a very complicated task. "We asked, 'Why can't we get a controller that can handle water chemistry but communicate with chemical-fed equipment and also with the swimming pool pumps to ramp up and down as needed and to communicate when to backwash and when filters need to be bumped or to help control the heating system?' We are working with a sophisticated manufacturer to work with controls where the operator goes to one location rather than four or five to check the heat or pool recirculation rate or to check chemical levels."

Technology is always moving. Fortunately, as is the case with most technological advances, prices also tend to come down, even as sophistication goes up. And that is especially good news in a designing climate where energy efficiency is all the rage. "We've seen some pretty neat filtration systems," Hester said. "Energy efficiency is really huge and to the point that it's second nature, we do VFDs on pool pumps whereas five years ago, we rarely did it or only for unique situations."

A lot can change in five years. Or even two or three. Whether it's newer, better, faster technology, new regulations to encourage change or new ways to afford new ideas, the tide of aquatic design is turning in a pretty exciting direction.